Reimagining Sample-based Hip Hop: Making Records within Records

Michail Exarchos (a.k.a. Stereo Mike) is an award-winning rap artist/producer turned hip-hop musicologist, who – with this book – reimagines what we regard as ‘phonographic’ at the heart of sample-based Hip Hop. Looking at the history of hip-hop music-making from Dr. Dre through to the present, he examines the alternative techniques deployed by beat-makers to avoid the use of copyrighted samples, and puts theory to the test by creating his first independent album in over a decade using findings from the research.

In a fascinating autoethnographic narrative that exposes his studio process as fieldwork, the beat-maker/scholar challenges previous theoretical understandings about Hip Hop, focusing on deconstructing sonic phenomena using his hands-on engineering expertise and in-depth musicological knowledge about record production.

This book needed to be written. We’re lucky the job was done by such a creative soul, expert engineer, and insightful scholar. The gift we’re left with is a penetrating exposition of the poetic fabric of contemporary music recording practice and culture.

Albin Zak, Professor of Music Emeritus, University at Albany

Using imaginative visualisations, striking analogies and original methodological strategies, the unique approach shifts the analytical focus to the sonics (not just the notion of musical borrowing) in sample-based Hip Hop, illustrating the mechanics behind the artform and demonstrating their stylistic impact on the end artefacts. As such, the book maps studio poetics to sonic aesthetics and offers a refreshing proposition to how popular musicology can benefit from insider practitioner perspectives. It also connects personal reflection to a wider stylistic phenomenon through the analysis of key releases in hip-hop discography and interviews with fellow experts from the world of Hip Hop and beyond.

Reimagining Sample-based Hip Hop is a tour de force and the best example I have seen of theory and practice coming together in hip-hop studies to date. Not only does this book provide a useful template for practice-as-research based methods, but it is rich in theorizing sampling, remix and beatmaking cultures. Exarchos has combined a number of worlds in ways that we were all waiting for someone to do expertly.

Justin A. Williams, Associate Professor of Music, University of Bristol

The book will be at home in libraries and studios alike, illuminating pioneering hip-hop practices, igniting fresh creative workflows and opening up new debates on the future of sample-based music aesthetics.

Reimagining Sample-Based Hip-Hop: Making Records within Records provides deep insight into the rich tapestry of underlying layers that embody sample-based Hip-Hop. Michail Exarchos (aka Stereo Mike) meticulously and clearly poses alternative practices to Hip-Hop production and to beat-making, using originally constructed source material rather than previously released phonographic content.  The reader will benefit from the strong coverage of authenticity and mechanical borrowing as applied to a great breadth of music and production approaches that define the style’s unique sonic signature of material ‘play’ with phonographic objects.  This is a must read for anyone interested in the workings of or creation of Hip-Hop.

William Moylan, Professor of Music and Sound Recording Technology, University of Massachusetts Lowell